Monday, December 10, 2012

Working Out

I want to share a few things that stick out in my mind from recent workouts - hopefully these will give you some idea why I am so very satisfied with my time at the gym.

Today, toward the end of my workout 3 young men came up and wanted to chat. They started out saying they were amazed by the variety of things my group does, and were curious where we got our routines. And then one of them said “You guys are the only people in this gym who always seem to be having fun”.

Think about it, a guy pushing 60 having fun working out with a bunch of kids in their late teens and 20's. Oh, plus a 53 year old, and several ladies, ranging from mid 20's to mid 60's.

Then, last week, I had to leave early (5 pm, only a 3 hour work out that day), but Maia, a lovely lady in her 60's had just shown up and wanted to work on pushups with her hands or her feet on an exercise ball. Matt (19 years old) jumped right in. Now picture this - a 19 year old spending time helping a 60's year old on pushups???!!!

Another time - I had noticed a guy watching us periodically - he finally got brave enough to come try our routines for a bit. He asked me, after a couple of days - “Why do you do this - what’s in it for you?” He seemed to find it hard to believe that I do what I do because I love working out.

Today, just finished doing pull-ups and chin-ups with a 30 or 40 pound dumb-bell between our feet. Oh, when going up we also lift our knees to our chests. Great exercises those. But, turn around and one of the young guys is already hoofing the weights back to the rack, across the gym. So very considerate.

When we work out we focus on making everyone feel a part of the group - part of this is the way we fist bump each other after every set. Part of it is the way we give positive reinforcement as we each do something tough. Part of it is the way we count for each other, and make appropriate comments as we get near the end of a set to spur each other on. Part of it is understanding that it is inappropriate to make comments like “I can do it, I can’t believe you can’t”. Funny how little bits of guidance can keep people very positive, and those positive vibes just build and build.

Don’t get me wrong - there are folk that don’t really fit in - that don’t get it. One guy, wanted to drop weights after doing one-arm presses - too heavy for him to set down carefully. And he wanted one of us to hand him the weights at the beginning of each set. I tried to gently explain that we don’t drop weights - if we can’t handle the weight we don’t use it - we go lighter - we focus on form over big weights.

Safety was more important than keeping up with some one else. He was trying to match the weight a couple of us were using but was clearly not quite up to it. He didn't come back.

Which is ok - he really was not adding something positive to the group. Callous - not really. One time one of the old guys who watch us work out commented that, since I was heading up the group it was my responsibility to make sure that the people in my group kept safe and were courteous. I thought about it, and realized that, for the good of the group, he might actually be right.

I have spent a bit of time working with a 70 plus gentleman with some balance issues and a lot of joint pain. I have guided him in doing some steps from one BOSU ball to another while holding onto a rail. And, I go through a 25 minute stretch routine with him 3 or 4 times a week. Today he told me his joint pain is gone - as in the pain that was making it very hard for him to walk normally is gone. OK, still has the balance issues, but he is walking better. Know how good this made me feel? Do you have any idea???

Is what we do for everyone? No, not really. We don’t focus on building muscle - we focus on building a balanced body. We don’t lift weights that are as heavy as we possibly can handle. Instead we make the lifts more challenging because we intentionally lift in unbalanced poses - forcing ourselves to develop more control, balance and core strength.

And, each day, I have someone who wants to work out with me - who is making progress, and who appreciates what I am doing.

And this makes me happy. Five days a week.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Stretching - What I do

I wish I could say that one day I just decided to start stretching and knew right off the bat what it was I should do. Didn’t happen that way. But, good news is that I read a lot, and I tend to try things out to see if they seem to help. So, over the last several years I have been building up my stretching routine. Is it the greatest ever - not so much - or, more precisely - no.

Does it work for me - do I have fewer aches and pains, can I turn farther, and feel better during and after exercising - YES! So, for me, it is a good thing. Funny though - recently, as I was leading a group of 4 of us older folk through my routine a lady joined us who actually knew what she was doing. She gave us some great pointers. And, I was feeling pretty self-conscious - my simple routine - how would it stack up against the program a pro would develop.

Perhaps with time I will find out - but what I came to realize, as I finished the routine, was that each of the people that stretch with me are there because it is doing them some good. One old guy (honest - even older than me) is walking better. Another has virtually eliminated hip pains that were plaguing him. Anyway, at the end of the session each of the people came up to me and thanked me for taking the time to help them stretch.

Lesson here - my taking the time to hold a session each day, for 25 or 30 minutes, is really making a difference for real people. Is it the best in the world? No. Is it the best in these peoples lives - actually it is.

I was especially touched with am elderly oriental lady who doesn’t speak that well, a lady whose name I still haven’t figured out. Today, after our session, she applauded me, and the other guys joined in.

Bit of a digression, but it seemed important as I was writing this.

In case you haven’t found it yet, I do have a website - On this site you can learn more about me than you could possibly want to know. If you were to look long enough you might find my “Stretching for Us Older Folk” gallery. Or, you can follow this LINK Just click on the triangle in the middle of the larger picture.

I just reviewed the video - and I have to admit I look pretty stupid doing stretches. But, it will give you an idea of what I do, and how much my cats help.

My routine hits the rotation of the back a lot. Because my work out routines are so focused on my core, I definitely can tighten up my back: It feels so good to spend 20 or 30 minutes and find that I am flexible again. Of course, there are times when, after a particularly good abs work out, I manage to get a cramp in my abs - so perhaps once in a while maybe I go a little far in my abs workouts. But, cramps aside, it is amazing how much strain and stress these simple stretches work out.

Don’t have cats - I promise, the stretches will still benefit!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Stretching - the ins and outs

Let’s talk for a moment about the physiology of stretching. The purpose of a stretching program is to relax a muscle and work it through its range of motion. Muscles should only be stretched after they have been warmed up. Flip side, one should not stretch just after a long or strenuous workout when your muscles are likely to be fatigued and dehydrated. Rehydrate and rest before stretching.

Stretching is done to relax the muscles and the connective tissue. To stretch effectively we have to overcome a natural safeguard that is built into our muscles to keep them from being damaged by overextending too quickly.

Muscles contain receptors called “spindles” and “Golgi tendon organs” that act together to protect our muscles. The main purpose of the spindles is to respond to stretch in a muscle and, through reflex action, initiate a stronger contraction to reduce this stretch. This pretty effectively limits how far you can quickly stretch a muscle: The spindles resist quick stretching of our muscles.

The Golgi tendon organs cause reflex relaxation of the muscle and its opposing muscle. If the stretch is held long enough, the Golgi tendon organs allow the muscle to relax. This lengthens the muscle and allows it to remain in a stretched position.

OK - so much for the physiology of spindle cells, Golgi tendon organs and the like.

We have all seen people stretching by twisting back and forth at the waist - swinging from one side to the other. Or by stretching and then bouncing against the limit of their stretch. This is called Ballistic Stretching. This kind of stretching actually make the muscles shorter and tighter by activating the stretch reflex and have been found to contribute to the risk of small muscle tears, soreness and injury. Let’s not do these.

What we want to focus on is a slow gradual stretch though the muscle's full range of motion until resistance is felt. This is called Static Stretching. The stretch should be done slowly and carefully to the point of slight pull or slight discomfort. It should not be painful.

Bottom line is that it takes time to stretch. I was taught in my Personal Trainer certification course that one needs to hold a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds to get muscles to relax. Some sources say that the Golgi tendon organ starts to let the muscle relax after only 6 seconds, but that one must continue to stretch for 20 seconds or longer to get a good stretch. Some sources say as long as 2 minutes.

Probably the easiest way to think of this is to try to stretch a little bit farther each time you take a breath while stretching. As adults we breathe between 12 and 20 times per minute if we are not exercising. When I am stretching I count my breaths, and typically hold a stretch for 10 to 15 exhalations, while seeing if I can stretch just a bit farther each time I exhale.

Stretching is not a competitive sport. Flexibility differs with each individual. Your goal should be to achieve a good level of flexibility for you, not to match anyone else's level. This was brought home to me last week when a lady joined our stretch session and gave us a few pointers. With 35 years of yoga behind her she is an exquisite example of the benefits of stretching. Believe me, I can only dream of being as flexible as she, but that doesn't keep me from doing my best to go just the least bit farther in each of my stretches.

The take home message from this posting: If you do a fairly complete stretching routine it can easily take 20 to 30 minutes. And leave you feeling so much better it is almost unbelievable. Oh, and reduce the risk that you will pull a muscle!

My next posting will discuss some of the stretches I do and why I feel they are important.

I used several references for the above, but pulled the most information from Team Oregon Stretching Reference

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Perhaps five years ago I began to make a change. Like most lasting changes in my life, this one started slowly. I started taking perhaps 3 minutes while soaking in my morning bath to do some simple stretches. I did this on the blind faith that they must do some good - at least Kelly kept telling me they would.

At that point I could not reach my toes - in fact, I couldn’t come within 6 inches of my toes.

Since then I have gone through a slow increase in the number of stretches and the time I make for stretching each day. At this point I am spending 10 to 20 minutes each morning stretching, and, weekdays, 20 to 30 minutes guiding 2 to 5 other people in their 50's to 70's through a stretch session. In addition to giving me a chance to enhance my flexibility, I also get a chance to amuse one of our cats. Max is pretty convinced I do these stretches so he will have a new place to curl up for a bit.

What does all this mean? In terms of aches and strains - they are pretty much gone. As in, even with the ridiculously strenuous workouts that I enjoy, I am not having chronic back pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, I am just not experiencing the problems I did in my 40's and early 50's. While it is true that some of the more strenuous days will result in muscle soreness the next day, I am not fighting the long term pain of stressed joints, ligament and tendons.

Now I can not only reach my toes, I can wrap 2 to 3 inches of my fingers around my toes. Most amazingly (at least to me), I can now turn around far enough to see behind me when I back up a car.

Just like my exercise routine, my stretching routine has grown as I learned more, and as I recognized the need for more focused stretches. I won’t even begin to act like I am a pro at this all - I just know it works for me.

I’ll talk a bit about the physiology of stretching in my next post.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Aches and Pains

Stiff old man. Creaky old man. Won’t even mention “Cranky old man”. As we age we naturally loose the flexibility of youth. I see this everyday when I work out at the gym. For some, this results in numerous aches and pains, for others, more focus on joint pain, or maybe a specific joint that “gives them trouble”. What I see most are folk who decide they can no longer do a specific exercise or series of exercises because they hurt.

Over the years I found that one thing that really bugs me is not being able to look behind me when backing a car. Which is really bad because 1. I think I am a good driver (a belief held by 99.994% of the men out there), and 2. Because I would really not like to back into something. Like it or not, as the years went by, I just couldn’t turn far enough to see where I was going.

The other thing that getting older taught me years ago was that I needed to be more careful when doing things - if I wasn’t I would likely strain something, like my back, and that I would be in pain until I was smart enough to back off for a while and let the strain heal.

On top of this, my life-long (OK, post 25 anyway) focus on exercise kept me fit, but, if anything, resulted in even more loss of range of motion - exercise, without stretching, can all too quickly make you stronger and less flexible.

The good news from perhaps my 45th birthday till my 55th is that Kelly, my wife, became very good at giving me back massages that loosened up my back and got my backbone back into alignment.

Oh, and I learned the benefit of taking ibuprofen and using ice packs to reduce inflamation.

In my next post I will talk about what I have done to reduce my bodies aches and pains.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Years ago I had a manager who took me under his wing and helped my do some serious growing, both as an engineer and as a project manager. Funny how some little things stick in ones head, as the years go by - the thing I remember about Ken was a time that he needed me to get something done for him quickly. As in as-soon-as-I-could. Like NOW!

He gave me a bit of a pep-talk to get me started - helping me understand how one should treat a project that one’s boss wants done NOW.

He talked about how easy it is to put things off, to let other things, like answering e-mails, or even answering the phone, get in the way. His point was that when ones boss needs something, and lets you know he needs it, well, nothing less than moving heaven and earth is in fact expected.

I was thinking about priorities today - partially because of a friend who is in fairly bad shape - significant bone loss due to osteoporosis, and some joint challenges due to a recent accident. His doctor made it pretty clear how important it is for him to make exercise and stretching a priority in his life.

And, hey, for the first couple of weeks he was very regular at the gym. But, time has gone by, and, even though I started doing a stretch session each day so that he has the opportunity to join a group and make the stretching more fun, well he is down to one or two days a week.

At this point in his life exercise and stretching likely will make the difference in being able to walk and run and, well, live his life.

So, a quiz for you: What is the most important thing in your day? What will reduce your risk of obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, some forms of cancer - heck, likely even things like Shingles? Just think, if there was a pill you could take to achieve all of those health benefits - why, we would all be taking it.

Oh - there is something that will do all of this. Just it’s not a pill - and it takes somethign very precious - your time - to achieve. Yup, exercise will do all of this. And, if you treat it like the life-saving miracle that it is, and if you get in as much as you can, hey, people will start thinking you are 10, 15 or perhaps 20 years younger than you are.

Because your body will in fact be 10, 15, or 20 younger than it might otherwise be.

I have learned, over the years, that there are two things that get me to the gym (besides seeing how fit my body is every morning while I get dressed): Routine - Every weekday, come 1:30 pm, I am heading out the door. And, the second thing? The every weekday part - people know I am going to be at the gym in the afternoon. If they forget - well, they don’t find me at home.

This is the thing that I do for myself every weekday - the thing no one is going to take away from me.

Yes, I take off the weekends. At this point my workouts are averaging 3 hours per day. My body, just like the bodies of the 20 year olds that I work out with, needs a chance to recover. And, by Monday I am ready to hit it again, full bore - leading around my pack of 20-something’s at the gym. Brings to mind a recent balance session - there were 5 of us, all standing on one leg on BOSU balls, all doing curls with a dumbbell in one hand. Someone dubbed it the “Dumbbell Chorus Line”.

Somehow I suspect you would have to be there to appreciate how funny that was.

Priority - well, I guess you could say my priority is to be fit enough to do whatever I want to do. A lot of people tell me that is their priority. It’s just that they really don’t know how to achieve such a goal - they don’t understand that being fit demands their doing everything they can, every day, getting to the gym, pushing themselves, finding work-out buddies that want to work out, not talk. They really don't get it - they likely will have to do without some of the things that might otherwise fill their time.

So, in your life, what has a higher priority than life and death? Watching TV? Eating? Playing computer games? How about finding a new reality - with a focus on working out!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sustainable Rewards

Cookies! OK, let’s look beyond short term rewards for finishing a specific task: As I think about the evolution of my view of what is important I realize that I focused more and more on time being the most important thing in my life. I wrote about entitlements in an earlier post – when I retired my day job as an engineer I decided there were certain things I was going to give myself. Things that I was “entitled” to in recognition of my retiring. These “things” all involved the allocation of my time – for practicing the hammered dulcimer an hour each morning, for working out three or more hours each weekday, for making bread. And, as when I was in college, I have to manage my time to get all the important things done so I can in fact enjoy my entitlements. My rewards.

One of my recurring themes in this blog is the concept of doing things that generate satisfaction, and ultimately happiness. I am coming to realize now how this concept – doing things - could be an important part of something that is even more important – managing our weight. By shifting my value system – or perhaps I should say my reward system – away from using food as my reward I have helped to improve my diet and made it easier to keep weight off.

As for food – it is probably all too trite to suggest that when a child is misbehaving we should give the little bugger a carrot to get them to settle down. Even I know that is not going to fly. In truth, bribing a child to be good is not a sustainable answer – and bribing with sweets is not only not sustainable, but leads to a life-long reliance on food as a reward. And to diabetes and heart disease.

So, let’s talk about rewards and children. My wife just read what I am writing and pointed out that I don’t in fact have any children so perhaps am not actually qualified to write on children. She has a point. Yet, even still, I have been around a few rug rats, and have even had some success at improving one little tykes diet.

At one time I was dating a lady with a lovely little daughter who would only eat Spaghetti-O’s. Her mom was a very busy lady, and heck, there are worse things than a child who would only eat Spaghetti-O’s. Lots worse things. Still, by persistently praising her when she ate something healthy, and by giving her extra attention when eating, with a focus on little things like using a fork instead of her fingers, and chewing with her mouth closed – I was honestly amazed at how quickly she was eating and enjoying thing she had previously refused.

And not giving me a view of what she was chewing!

Children crave positive reinforcement and attention. If they don’t get it, they will do their best to get attention, even if it is not positive.

Is it always possible to change behavior with just positive reinforcement – with extra attention? I don’t know. I do know I have had a couple of successes like the one above when dealing with children and adults who were acting like children. As for adolescents – my impression is they can be a serious problem if they have gotten into their teens with bad attitudes and habits. Perhaps someone else can offer a solution.

My evolution from viewing food as a reward to where I am now – viewing meals as a time to gain nourishment and share time with my lady and, on occasion friends, is still a work in progress. It is amazing to me how much of our lives are tied up in eating. And looking forward to eating, and finding people who want to go eat with us.

I often think back to a comment in the book “Younger Next Year”: “Let’s go down to the gym and lift heavy weights until we can’t lift anymore?” This is pretty much what I look forward to each time I work out with Mark and the 20-something young men and women who join me in my core and balance workouts. Working out until I cannot do anymore – resting, and hitting it again. This is a reward in my life. So are meals – just not like they used to be.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Rewards - Cookies!!!

Kelly has been making cookies for me for many years. Over the years we have slowly become more health conscious – so my cookies have evolved: Oil, butter and lard have been replaced with applesauce, the amount of white sugar has been reduced, and ultimately replaced with brown sugar or honey. Whole wheat and soy flour have replaced white flour. And, lately, she is adding whole grains, as in grains of wheat - otherwise known as wheat berries. Are the cookies as tasty as they were perhaps 10 years ago - well, not as sweet anyway... OK, not as to-die-for as they were. Yet she has continued to make cookies that I can use to reward myself when I do things around the house. And I love them.

I make sure that I only have a few cookies a day – otherwise I would likely have to work out even more than I do now.

A healthy reward – perhaps one of my least healthy rewards. But I manage it. And, they make me feel special. That is what rewards are meant to do.

When I look around me, especially on this trip (in an airplane returning from Dallas from a wonderful weekend of dulcimers) I see the impact of diet on those around us. Recently I read that the CDC (Center for Disease Control here in the US) forecasts that a third of all of the people born in the year 2000 and later will develop diabetes. This will bankrupt America’s medical system.

From a young age we are taught that food is a reward – all too often - sweet food. Great dinners, long lunches, brunches, big breakfasts, candy, donuts and pastries – all are rewards. In fact, as I slowly became more and more aware of the implications of meat in our diet I also came to realize that many meals are judged by how much meat they include. At least in my childhood, the things that were always rationed were the meat and desert. Can’t say I remember my mom saying I could only have so many Brussels sprouts – or beans, or carrots, or apples.

Reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend who had just gotten back from an Alaskan cruise – she was not very happy with the amount of meat served with each meal – only 8 ounces!

Funny, in my mind, meat equals increased cancer risk. Meat is no longer a reward – a fact that is sometimes in conflict with my love of barbequed pork ribs dripping in caramelized BBQ sauce. But, getting that large portion of steak – no longer a goal. Or a reward. And, well, it has been years since I have had pork ribs dripping in caramelized BBQ sauce.

So, if deserts, large portions of meat, high-calorie meals – is these are no longer rewards, how do I reward myself for doing the things that need done in my world?

We’ll discuss this in my next post.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Rewards - Learning from my cats

If I have not previously mentioned in one of my postings, Kelly and I have cats. Three fur balls.

[caption id="attachment_564" align="alignnone" width="584" caption="Monty, Max and Muggles"][/caption]

Much is written about how one does not own a cat, about how they in fact own us. Cats are aloof, proud, mysterious, and good at letting you know when they are not happy. Our cats, on the other hand, love attention. They will follow us around trying to get our attention, or at least get into something they can play with.

Early on we worked with our cats a lot, held them, helped them understand that being held was a good thing, a reward. Kitty treats helped in this training. OK – I have not eaten any of the kitty treats, but somehow our cats will do things for them that food in their food bowl does not match. For a while I was buying a different kind of cat food and pretending it was kitty treats. Hmmm, actually, it worked just fine. But, Kelly, being a soft-hearted lass, thought this was unfair, so we are back to using kitty treats to reward and train our cats.

So. Why am I writing about our kitties? Because, like our kitties, we are all pretty much trainable. In an early post I talked about my method of making myself look forward to taking a test. It involved not having to do any homework on the evening after I had taken a test. To make this reward work I had to plan ahead, get homework done ahead of time, but, it was worth it. And I came to enjoy taking tests. Which meant I was also able to do well on my tests – believe me, you will do better on a test is you are not nervous about it.

My reward – an evening to do what I wanted. As long as I planned before hand how I would get homework done early, hey - it was not a bad reward. A positive reward - sort of like with our cats – turns out the kitty treats that we buy are extra crunchy, which helps to keep our cats teeth clean. Which is a very good thing – ever try to clean a cats teeth? I tried a few times – they make these neat little pieces of cloth with toothpaste type stuff on them. Easy – just pop open your loving cats mouth and rub these pieces of cloth on their teeth with your finger.

Turns out that toothpaste on the cloth also makes a good disinfectant when the loving little kitty sinks his or her loving little teeth into your finger. If bleeding badly enough, you can also use the little piece of cloth as a miniature tourniquet.

Where was I? Oh yes, rewards. Positive rewards. Perhaps lying to oneself. And behavior modification - so that we do more healthy things.

My next post will talk a bit more about cookies - the Stephen equivalent of kitty treats!

Thursday, October 4, 2012


I began this series of posts over a year ago because I wanted to share my approach to getting old, and to talk about some of the things that make me happy - some of the ways I have found happiness. Then I got distracted with a rather extensive remodel - and with working out, and fixing clocks, and keeping up the yard, and holding contractors’ feet to the fire in an effort to get quality work done.

Good news is that I have been finding a lot of subjects to write about, and it is about time I got started again. Other good news is that I can usually fix the problems that contractors create - but that takes time.

So, back to happiness. If you are over 40, think about how you would feel if you just finished a 3 hour plus workout with 3 guys in their 20's, and left them bushed. Fatigued. Moving slowly. Wiped. One of these guys worked out with me on Tuesday, on the gymnasts rings, and told me on Wednesday that everything from his chest up hurt, including his arms.

Think about it. And, then think about the fact that you did more reps of pretty much every exercise, and had the chance to coach 3 very fit young men. And are not sore from the work outs.

Perhaps I am making too much out of this - how good it feels to be the older guy who sets the pace. Or perhaps it just really means something to this old guy when he hears one of the regulars in the group commenting to a new guy - “He’s just so darned strong”. That particular time I turned around to see who they were talking about. There was no one behind me. Huh.

A bit ago one of the folk who read this blog commented “Nice to see a blog that encourages a fit lifestyle into the retirement years”. Thank you Whit. So, what is it worth to be able to work out with 20 year olds? To look not just good, but to look ripped in a T-shirt?

Speaking of T-shirts - saw one the other day that got my attention: “I’m not fat - I’m American”. And, unfortunately, given that two out of every three of the good folk in the US are overweight - well, the T-shirt is, in one way, telling it like it is. The shirt could have also said “I’m Diabetes waiting to happen”, or perhaps “One step from a stroke”, or, well you get my point (hopefully). Especially when one realizes that heart disease and diabetes are the two biggest killers in the US, besides being more common in the US than in the rest of the world.

Made me wonder - if an “American” is, statistically speaking, an overweight diabetic with heart disease - what does that make me?

For a while I entertained the idea of teaching a work-out class at the gym - focused on core and balance work for people over 50. The last 6 months has pretty much convinced me that this is not such a great idea. Problem is that I really, really like working out with people who are really, really fit. And, given the things I want to do outside of the gym, I really don’t have time to teach a class that is not focused on a pretty serious workout. But, I have started holding a 20 to 30 minute stretching session each day - and am seeing several of the older folk (at 58, this means people over 65) who really appreciate what I am doing. And, hey, I need to stretch at least once each day. Perhaps I need to approach the gym manager and see if I can interest them in such a class - more formalized - to give me a chance to help the older folk make some progress. In truth, I do want to do what I can to help people age gracefully - and, hmmm, when I am 80, perhaps I will then want to teach a balance and core class for 50 and older folk. But right now I am having way too much fun getting more fit and “younger” each year.

Another change in my “group” at the gym is the addition of a mid-30 gent who is extremely fit, and developing his fascination with gymnastic moves. So, in addition to the balance and core work, we are now adding in more challenging things, handstands and the like.

Then there is Mark - 54 - he has been working out with me for a while now. He is getting stronger - stronger than me in some areas, and definitely stronger than many of the young guys. AND HE IS LOVING IT!

Ageing gracefully. Having fun. 3 hour workouts. Is it for everyone - my answer is a simple “YES” writ large. Another rule I recently came up with: “If you watch tv for more hours each week than you work out - you have your priorities wrong.” I suppose I could add “Dead wrong”, but perhaps that would be a bit overly dramatic. Or, perhaps not.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Turned 58 on Sunday. Got up, did my morning thing, which includes about 20 minutes of stretching, and realized just how good I felt. I suppose part of my feeling really good was the things I didn’t feel - joint pain, back pain, sprained muscles - I just felt really good. OK, I don’t work out at the gym on Saturdays or Sundays - or I might have to back down on the muscle soreness thing - but even during the week I am not feeling sprained muscles, just the healthy awareness that I am pushing my limits.

Birthdays can be a time of introspection - a time for rejoicing, or perhaps a time to regret some of the things that one has done.

Sunday was a day that really made me glad I do what I do - which is work out 2 to 3 hours each week day.

I can remember perhaps 20 years ago having to have a shot in my spine to help relieve tension and relax pinched nerves.

I can recall 3 years ago having a muscle in my arm strained badly enough that I could not do some exercises for 6 months.

I can recall 2 years ago having my lovely wife work my back to release tight muscles and work out kinks.

Yesterday I was working out with Michael, and mentioned to a young man that sometimes joins us in doing the more challenging exercises. I noted that I was three times as old as Michael. Avi (not sure if that is the right spelling) just looked at me funny - like he didn’t understand how that could be. I told him I had turned 58 the day before and he was shocked. In fact, today he said he really couldn’t believe I am 58.

Is there a prescription for my condition - a prescription that can get others to the point they are happy - even ecstatic with their bodies? Yup, darned tootin.

- Get rid of your TV’s. Every one of them. You will find that they sell very quickly on Craigslist as long as you price them appropriately - say $5 each. Or, if you are really smart - tell people you will pay them to take them off your hands. What ever the case, get rid of them. On average in the US - cutting out TV would give people 4 more hours each day to do things (other than watch TV) - like work out.

- Work out - hard. At least an hour each day, I strongly recommend 2 to 3 hours each week day - then you have the weekend to let your body recover before you do it again.

- Work out hard enough and be consistent enough that others want to work out with you. There is nothing like work out buddies to make working out sustainable.

- Severely reduce the amount of meat and refined carbs that you eat.

- Eat lots of veggies and drink lots of water.

I hope this short posting means something to you - that it helps you understand that you can not only retard aging - you can turn it around and truly become stronger, feel better, have better blood chemistry - you really can become younger each year.

Need I mention that I am really really looking forward to 60? Yup, get senior discount at restaurants!

Oh, sorry for the lack of postings of late - we are finishing up a remodel and trying to fix a few of the myriad problems caused by contractors who are perhaps not totally into the concept of quality. I will not bore you with horror stories: At the end of the project the house will be what we want. But, in between, well, it is sometimes right challenging.

Monday, April 2, 2012

More Common-Sense Rules for Eating

As I mentioned in my previous post, Dr. Stanger prefaced her common sense rules by first pointing out a misconception.

The third misconception: “We need a special source of protein”.

I think Dr. Stangers’ take on this is quite interesting - she pointed out several simple facts:

1. If you have fat molars you are designed to eat veggies.
2. Veggies have more protein, per 100 calories, than meat
3. Animal protein is recycled plant protein.

I think the last point bears some further study. Dr. Stanger explained that there are 20 kinds of amino acids (the building blocks that make up protein). Eight are essential (as in our body doesn’t make them) and 12 are non-essential (you guessed it - our body makes them). Our body doesn’t make the essential amino acids because the processes for making them are too energy intensive. Plants can and do make the essential amino acids - because plants draw the required energy from the ultimate energy source - the sun.

Animals eat plants, there-by consuming the essential amino acids, which they use to make protein. So, yes, when we eat meat, we get the essential amino acids. Just like if we eat plants.

Dr. Stangers’ take home message on protein - eat 2 tablespoons per day of flax seeds to get the omega-3 fatty acids you need, and eat lots of veggies.

The next misconception she discussed had to do with carbohydrates: Carbs raise insulin levels while protein lowers insulin levels.

It is unfortunate that so many “experts” today lump all carbs together, whether refined or not. It is recognized that refined carbs (white rice, white sugar, white flour) all contribute to the obesity that is so prevalent in America today. Problem is that people conclude that if refined carbs are bad, then all carbs are bad. And that carbs cause all the problems in America.

Somehow the fact that the carbs found in whole foods give us the energy our body needs, in a form that it most appropriate for our bodies, gets lost in the process. When whole foods are refined to concentrate the carbs and make them easier to digest we run into problems - diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. But, if we eat the whole foods our bodies have evolved to match we not only loose weight but we reduce our risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Her bottom line - a whole foods vegetarian diet lowers insulin levels. And helps you loose weight.

Tomorrow we will tackle a couple more misconceptions.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Common Sense Rules for Eating

Common Sense Rules for Eating - Posted 3/29/2012

In addition to the diet that I outlined in my 2/21/12 post, Dr. Stanger provided some common sense on how we should think about food. She did this by presenting a series of misconceptions that muck-up peoples eating.

Her first misconception - If a little is good, more is better.

Janice went two directions with this misconception - one focused on eating whole foods, the other on overdoing supplements.

Let’s start with whole foods versus extracts and concentrates. In my 2/29/2012 posting I discussed concerns with eating soy-protein isolate, and the worrisome IGF-1 changes. In comparison, eating whole soy does not have the same impact. Yes, the isolate provides more protein and less carbs and fats. But, if our bodies are not programmed to accept such concentrates, they can do more harm than good.

Likewise, if we take supplements, it sounds good to say we are taking many times the recommended daily allowance. But, does it do any good? And, does eating an acidic supplement, which drops our bodies pH, make a lot of sense given that a lower pH increases the drain of calcium from our bones?

Then there is aspirin. For many people, a small dose of aspirin each day reduces the risk of strokes caused by blood clots in our arteries. Yes, more aspirin would further reduce the risk of strokes, but it would also increase the risk of internal bleeding.

One that I am seeing a bit too much of at the gym is the use of testosterone to enhance a persons body-building. A gent at the gym talks about boosting his testosterone to around 7,000 ng/dl. Granted, his doctor has confirmed that his testosterone levels are low - for reference, a typical mid 40's male should have a level around 600. But, to use that as the basis for targeting levels 10 times the norm? Oh, and his doctor tells him that they need to keep an eye on his prostate. Granted, the gent would really like to be as fit as he was when he played football back in his youth. But, to augment his testosterone levels with the full realization that such an increase significantly increases his risk of cancer?

Dr. Stanger’s next misconception: A little bit can’t hurt.

Her first example is scary - 3 cigarettes per day increase risk of cardiovascular disease by 64%. While this really isn’t many cigs, Dr. Stanger pointed out that the issue often times is the irritation even a limited exposure can cause. I especially liked the points she made about irritation. Acute (short term) inflamation is healing - your body is protecting you from many dangers. But, chronic (long term) inflamation never gives your body a chance to heal. Cigarettes and food can be chronic irritants. Bottom line - a continuous irritant, even if a small one, is a big problem.

Tomorrow I will cover more of Dr. Stanger’s points. But, to finish tonight’s post, I wanted to comment on my workout today. Let’s step back - about 4 weeks ago I spent about 30 minutes showing a young hockey player some of my core and balance work. Today he stopped me at the gym and told me how much those simple exercises helped his playing. His agility, his ability to do things that before he couldn’t do - he was seriously pumped. As was I. Think about it, a 57 year old man teaching 19 and 20 year olds how to be better athletes. Doing things, and getting some serious satisfaction and happiness.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Today’s workout

It amazes me how positive an experience my workouts are. Michael and I spent just under 2 hours doing balance and core exercises before he had to run an errand. We usually end our sessions with 15 or 20 minutes of pushups on basket balls, or doing chin-ups. I opted for the chin-ups.

I did three or four of the variants we have been working on - legs straight out in front of me, then completely inverted so doing chin-ups with my head down and legs straight up, and lastly one with my legs at a 45 degree angle above horizontal. When I dropped down off of the bar and was walking away I saw a young man give me a thumbs up in the mirror.

Do you have any idea how good it makes an old guy to get a thumbs up from a young guy he doesn’t even know?

In the locker room I chatted with a couple of the young guys I work out with, and then was approached by a father and son who work out together - which I think is a really cool thing. Anyway, the father commented that he saw me working out with a lot of young guys doing balance and core work, clearly he was curious about it all, but hesitant to be too imposing or nosy.

Again, how great does it make a guy pushing 58 feel to have a younger father and his son interested in my routines? I made sure he understood he was welcome to join us whenever he and his son wanted, but did warn them that I might not want them to do some of the off the wall things we do - until they had built up a bit of experience in some of my routines.

And then, a 30 something engineer came over and said he would really like to work through some of my routines with me.


Doing things, getting satisfaction, encouragement, and happiness!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Whole Foods

In my last post I mentioned that Kelly and I had a chance to listen to Dr. Janice Stanger as she explained her view on what we should eat to stay healthy. I thought Janice made a very important point - our bodies have evolved to process the foods that were available as our species developed. Whole foods, not extracts, isolates, or juices. Was sugar a major food group for our ancestors 500,000 years ago when our species was evolving into what we call “modern” humans? Or during the 2,500,000 years since the neanderthals were around?

These are the time frames for our species evolution, giving us some idea of how long we ate pretty much whole foods. During these hundreds of thousands of years our bodies adapted to the diets that were available. Interestingly white sugar, white flour, and white rice - all refined carbs, were not yet available. In fact, the more I study the way our bodies cope with food, the more I understand how readily digested starches can throw our bodies out of kilter. When we eat sugar our bodies produce insulin to allow us to metabolize glucose. The insulin tells our body we don’t need to metabolize fructose, fats, or complex carbs for energy - so the liver converts them to triglycerides which are then stored in our fat cells. Which works great if we just added a bit of honey to our diet. But, if our diet becomes overloaded with sugar we end up with elevated insulin levels and diabetes. Oh, and we get fat. Or, we get fat and then get diabetes. Same end result.

As a species, we did not have a diet high in simple to digest carbs, and our bodies didn’t evolve to cope with high carb loads. In fact, as Dr. Stanger pointed out, whole foods reduce insulin levels. Which is the opposite of what refined carbs do.

Perhaps I should take a moment to talk about what a “Whole Food” is. In reality it is a pretty simple concept - it is the fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and grains the way they grow. Take soy beans. They contain carbs, fiber, protein and fats. And, research has shown that they are protective against breast and prostate cancers. But, remove the carbs, fiber and fats, so as to produce soy protein isolate, and voila - we have a high protein food that is not a whole food. And, where soy beans are protective against cancer, soy protein isolate boosts our bodies production of the hormone insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). Which, in turn (as the name suggests), makes our bodies grow more. Which is all well and good if we are 13 year old. But if we are older it also makes our cancer cells grow faster. Sad reality - just like animal-based protein (which, being the highest “quality” protein, helps our muscles grow more), excess IGF-1 helps some cancers grow faster. And, IGF-1 has been linked to faster aging in mice. Check out

All of which is slightly frustrating for someone like myself who has moved away from whey protein as my protein source in favor of soy protein isolate. Because I felt that the soy protein would pose less cancer risk than an animal-based protein like whey.

Turns out they both have problems. Which brings me back to whole foods, and eating soy beans - not soy protein isolate.

OK - didn’t get to the rules Dr. Stanger lives by - will tackle that one in my next posting.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Garfield once said "Diet" is "Die with a t".  Hmmm - perhaps this gives us a bit of insight as to why the pudgy little bugger is so, well, fat.

Garfield humor aside, deciding what to eat in this world of fad diets, sports diets, health diets, cave-man diets, and every other conceivable kind of diet is really a tough thing.  We all know red meat is bad.  Well, actually, there is even contention over that.  Along with fats.

My goal in this post is not to discuss the various diets out there, I just wanted to share a diet that makes a lot of sense to Kelly and I.  One that is perhaps simple enough to understand, and one that, we believe, will give you a good shot at being healthy.

Perhaps in future posts I will discuss some of the various diets in an effort to share some of the knowledge that Kelly and I have been pulling together over the years.  But, for now, I think the best thing is to present a well balanced, vegetarian diet that can add years to your life.  And, take inches off your waist if you are on the heavy side.

While in many ways this diet is self evident to a vegetarian or vegan, it took our attending a lecture this weekend by Dr. Janice Stanger to bring it all into perspective.

  • 1/4 of what you eat should be vegetables

  • 1/4 of what you eat should be fruit

  • 1/4 of what you eat should be either potatoes or legumes

  • 1/4 of what you eat should be whole grains

Dr. Stanger went on to say that if you have a meal with these proportions and fill yourself up, you will have consumed roughly 500 calories.

To the above she recommends adding:

  • Spices - to liven the taste and gain phyto-nutrients

  • Nuts - moderate amount due to their fairly high fat content

  • 2 tablespoons per day of either ground flax seeds or whole chia seeds to give you the omega-3 fatty acids you need

  • Vitamin B-12

  • Vitamin D

What this diet does not include is refined carbs - like white flour, white sugar, or white rice.

And, that’s it.  To me this is an extremely healthy, and simple formula to follow in making dietary decisions.  And, interestingly, it is pretty close to what Kelly and I do now.

In my next posting I will discuss some rules that Dr Stanger lives by.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Another Reason to Exercise

By now you have realized that perhaps I am an exercise freak.  Or, perhaps just an old fart that doesn’t want to be limited by his body.  Spent the first part of the day in the attic rerouting wires - and reminding myself how glad I am that I can do things like crawl around in the rafters - and, when needed, lift myself up into the rafters.

But, that is not the reason for this posting.

One of the magazines I read, the Economist, periodically has an article I think is worth sharing, or at least commenting on.  Recently they wrote about the impact of exercise on longevity.

It is recognized that a near-starvation diet can boost life spans dramatically.  Dr. Beth Levine of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center was a member of the team that showed that an increased level of autophagy was the mechanism responsible for this life extension.

Autophagy - if you don’t recognize this one, don’t feel bad - my spell checker didn’t either.  Autophagy refers to the process by which our bodies surplus, worn-out or malformed proteins and other cellular components are broken up and recycled.  And, just in case you thought Autophagy was a long word, check out autophagosomes - the structures that form around the components that are to be recycled.

Dr. Levine used mice to study the impact of exercise on the number of autophagosomes in muscles.  She found that the number of autophagosomes had increased after 30 minutes of exercising, and continued to increase until they had been running for 80 minutes.

OK - well and good - the body responds to exercise by increasing the number of autophagosomes to clean up the detritus from using our muscles.  But, does this actually benefit us?

The good doctor then "engineered" a second strain of mice with a recycle system that did not ramp up when exercising.  She found that the second strain showed less endurance and had less ability to take up sugar from their bloodstreams.

It is recognized that regular exercise (in humans, and mice) helps prevent diabetes.  But, when Dr. Levine’s team fed the second strain of mice a diet designed to induce diabetes, they found that exercise gave no protection at all.  Which supports the importance of autophagosomes.

It is theorized that autophagy is an adaptation to cope with a scarcity of nutrients:  Critters that can recycle parts of themselves for fuel are better able to cope with lean times.  In addition to coping with a lack of food, research has shown over the last couple of decades that autophagy is involved in things as diverse as fighting bacterial infections and slowing the onset of neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases.

And, it seems that it also slows the process of ageing.  The theory is that the autophagosomes are most active in removing worn out mitochondria.  Think of mitochondria as your cells primary energy source where glucose and oxygen react to produce energy.  While we need this energy, the process can also produce free radicals - which are linked to aging.  Getting rid of damaged mitochondria would reduce free radical production and might thus slow ageing.

Things like this fascinate me - and, having just written this, I can safely say I mostly understand it.  But a week from now what I will remember is this: Exercise makes you live longer.

OK, enough with the lunch break.  Back to playing attic monkey!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Health Care

Have you noticed that about a third of the presidential candidates discussions are on health care?  Problem is, they are not talking about health care, they are talking about the costly part - the cost of taking care of those of us who are sick.  Hmmm - so, sick care?  Doesn’t sound very good, but hopefully you get my point, and won’t object too much if I use the term "sick care" to contrast with health care.

Health care - that is what I did this afternoon for two and a half hours.  I worked out.  Let’s see - working out - reduces risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetics, joint problems, well, hopefully you get the point, working out is the best thing you can do for your health.  As in health care.

And then there was the food I ate today.  No meat (reduces risk of cancer), minimal refined carbohydrates (reduces risk of obesity and diabetes), lots of veggies, an apple, a pear, 3 bananas, and lots and lots of water.  No sodas, no caffeine, just lots of plain water.

Obviously no smoking, chewing, injecting, or inhaling of stuff we should not be smoking, chewing, injecting or inhaling.  These are all things that result in sick care, or, ultimately shortened lives.

As I follow the media discussions on the cost of caring for the sick, the thing that stands out is that we are not going to be able to sustain the current escalation in costs.  I am already reading that it is a lot easier to get into med school today than even ten years ago - young folk are realizing that a doctors degree may not have the same rewards in a future where medical care is no longer provided no matter the cost.  In fact, now it is getting pretty tough to get into programs like physician assistants and nurse practitioners, because it is likely in the future there will be more demand for the lower cost expertise these programs offer.

Bottom line - I work out for a variety of reasons - because it makes me feel great, it keeps my weight down, it allows me to do what I want to do, it makes me look like I am 10 or 15 years younger, and it keeps me healthy.  Or, to put it another way, it gives me a better chance to survive the coming changes in sick care.

When will we find the national wherewithal to actually focus on health care - rewarding those who go out of their way to stay healthy?  I seriously doubt we ever will - or, hey, maybe that is what health care reform is all about.  In a cost controlled system perhaps staying healthy will be the true reward, as it becomes more and more problematic to be sick.  Sort of like keeping out of trouble is a really, really good idea in countries where prisons are truly not a pleasant place to be.  I suspect hospitals in the future may become a bit less pleasant in a cost-constrained sick-care world.

Get out there - do things, get healthy, find satisfaction, and happiness!

Monday, February 13, 2012


Gads what a fantastic workout today.  Started out with my 30 minutes of cardio on a stationary bicycle.  After warming up I was setting up my gymnasts rings when an older gentleman came up and started talking to me about working out; how often, how long, that sort of thing.  He suggested that he could not possibly do the things he sees me doing, because he is so much older.

Right - you see it coming eh?  Turns out he is the same age as I, within a month anyway.  He figured me for my 40's.

So, we talked some more.  Hence the title for this posting.  He explained to me that he is very busy, retired, has a lot of things to do, and can’t make it to the gym most days.

Hmmm.  Let’s see - just finished getting certified as a personal trainer.  Building up a hammered dulcimer group, teaching the hammered dulcimer, and playing an hour a day.  Just prepped the kitchen and master bath for a major renovation.  Making bread whenever we run out.  Studying physiology to better understand the mechanics of the body for my proposed balance/core/stability classes, and proposing tomorrow to the 24 hour fitness folk that they host my classes...

But, despite all that stuff that I think is really important, the most critical element of my days are my workouts.

The aged gent also explained that his back hurt and he had to be careful of his joints.  Hey, I had back problems 20 and 30 years ago.  Seriously.  And I can do things now that I never could have done then.


Brings to mind a couple of quotes I will be using in my presentation tomorrow on my balance/core/stability program:

"People assume they will get old and die – in fact, people today tend to get old and live – decrepit perhaps, but they live. They can get decrepit, if they like, but it is their choice."

"We are stuck with aging – it is inevitable. But, decay is optional, which means that most of the functional aging is optional as well."

Kelly and I have talked about out goals - right at the top is ageing gracefully.  We both interpret that to mean being in fantastic shape so we can do what we want.  When we want.  And not with a sore back.

Funny, with Kelly having left behind her high-stress management position and devoting a bit more time to exercising - her face looks younger now than it did 5 years ago.  Gads it is wonderful living with someone who is getting younger each year!

I chatted a bit longer with the aged one, and concluded that he really is just too busy to do what I do.  Pity.

We all have our priorities, eh?

So, a 50 year old college math instructor joined me on the exercise rings.  Mark is great - one of the very few "older guys" who work out with me on occasion.  Great upper body strength, and focused on core development.  Perfect.  I have worked out with him a few times in the past - if he sticks with it I really look forward to seeing how his core strength develops.

He joined me for about an hour and a half.  Michael (20 year old soccer player) showed up and we finished up with another hour of rings, basket-ball pushups and funky chin-ups.

Total of 3 hours.  And I feel GREAT!  OK, I will sleep like a log tonight, and tomorrow at 2 pm I will hit it again.  Push-up day.

Priorities.  Doing things and gaining satisfaction, and happiness.  Every time I look in the mirror.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Special Ingredients

A loaf of white bread is primarily bread flour.  Flour doesn’t come white - it is processed to make it that lovely white color.  The end result of the processing is that white bread flour is very easy to metabolize.  The ease with which carbs can be metabolized (turned into glucose in the blood) is referred to as the "glycemic index". The benchmark is glucose - with an index of 100.  White bread has a glycemic index of around 70.

The higher the glycemic index, the higher the insulin spike needed to help metabolize the glucose, and the greater the impact on our metabolism.  Unfortunately, eating high glycemic index foods is one of the primary reasons that people become diabetic.

And being diabetic is really a bad thing.

But, and face it, there is always a but, carbohydrates (carbs - things like sugar, bread, noodles, rice, well, you get the point) provide energy for our bodies.  Which is a really good thing.  I can remember when I spent a week in Europe with my nephew, who, up to that point, ate mainly protein - which resulted in a pretty darned ripped physique.  But, he had to eat protein continuously.  During the trip I introduced him to European breads, which tend to have a lot of whole grains in them, as in whole wheat grains, and whole oats.  They are chewy - and they take time to digest.  But, they are carbs, and they don’t have high glycemic indices.  And, my nephew was amazed at how much more energy he had (a good thing since we were climbing mountains and the like - and because I was tired of buying him cold cuts all the time).

So, let’s get this straight - we need carbs for energy.  I recently took a class to become a certified personal trainer (by the way, I passed!!!!!).  The teacher stated that an athlete needs to consume 45% of their diet as carbs.  Interestingly the trainer was 40 pounds overweight.  OK, there is a problem there.  He used to work out hard - but, well, his business is doing well, and he hasn’t changed his eating habits.  Hence the 40 pounds.  So, we can overdo the carb thing.  And, if you are trying to lose weight, carbs might be a problem for you.

Even if you aren’t trying to lose weight, highly refined carbs (white sugar, white flour, white rice) are likely to be a problem.  As we go through the following, keep in mind that anything that speeds up the digestion of carbs will boost the carbs glycemic index.  So, finely ground flour with things like the fiber, bran and germ removed, are a lot easier to digest than a whole wheat flour.  And, logically, a grain of wheat that has not been ground up, stripped of its non-white components, well, it will be a lot harder to digest.  And provide energy for a lot longer time.  And have a very low glycemic index.

Which brings us to how I make my bread healthy.

Firstly I use only whole wheat flour.  Then I add things.  Or even replace the whole wheat flour with other kinds of flour.

First one to consider - soy flour is 40 to 50% protein.  Which is a great boost when compared with whole wheat flour, which is down around 10 to 12% protein.  Replacing 1/3 of the whole wheat flour with soy flour increases the overall protein content of the bread from around 14% to around 24%.  This is fantastic if you are working out and need the protein.

Also, soy flour is around 35% carbs.  Whole wheat is around 70% carbs.  Big change.  And, amazingly, while the dough smells like green soy beans, after baking you really can’t tell the soy flour is there!  But you do need to add a heaping tablespoon of gluten (protein) to make up for the lack of gluten in soy flour.  But, again, the gluten adds to the overall protein content.

The next thing I add is wheat berries.  I take a third of a cup of wheat - the whole grains - add a third of a cup of water and boil to soften the wheat.  This goes into my bread.

Fortunately, living in Portland the grocery stores carry such things - in Oklahoma I went to a feed store and bought a 10 pound bag - worked great!

Next.  Around here the stores carry steel-cut oats - not crushed oats (which would also work but would have a bit higher glycemic index).  I add 1/3 cup to each batch of bread - I don’t pre-soften these - they do fine when baked.

Likewise, I add steel-cut wheat.  Usually I end up making my own steel cut wheat - since I haven’t seen it in stores.  When we bought our mixer we also got an attachment that would allow us to make our own flour.  Or, if you adjust the setting, it will just cut grains - not grind them.  Perfect.  In goes a third of a cup of cut wheat.

Buckwheat - not wheat at all - actually related to sorrels, knotweeds and rhubarb.  Buckwheat provides essential amino-acids to support muscle recovery and rebuilding.  And, even better, the grains are small enough that I just add in a third of a cup without grinding.  I was curious, so just grabbed a palm full and ate them.  Crunchy, nutty flavor.

Next - flax seeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.  But, until they are cut up, the fatty acids are not readily available.  Once again, I use the grain mill attachment, and set it so the flax seeds come out cut into 3 or 4 smaller pieces.  In goes a third of a cup of cut flax seeds.

I have recently discovered chia seeds - an even better source of omega-3 acids than flax seeds.  These very small seeds (think celery seeds - really small) are also much easier to digest - so they don’t need to be cut up.  In fact I now add these to my protein drinks.  In my latest batch of bread I replaced the third cup of cut flax seeds with a third cup of chia seeds.

Honestly, experimenting with the things you can put in bread is a lot of fun.  There are a variety of flours and, lots of other grains: Each bring their own benefits.

But, let’s get back to the bread we are making.

Originally there were 3 cups of whole wheat flour.

I took one cup out and replaced it with soy flour.

Then I added 1/3 cup (uncooked, 2/3 cup cooked) wheat berries.

And 1/3 cup each of steel-cut oats, wheat and chia seeds.

And another 1/3 cup of buckwheat.  Final mix: 2 cups whole wheat flour, and 2 2/3 cups other stuff - all of which will have a very low glycemic index.

One other point to keep in mind.  Adding protein and fiber slows down absorption of metabolism of carbs - even more glycemic index reduction from all of these whole - as in "not ground into flour" - grains.

The bread came out great - surprisingly light - as in it rose well, but stuffed full of nutrition.  And, since I am really into flavor, I added my Scarborough Faire spice mix - yup, you guessed it, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  With some dried onion thrown in.

The first slice, with some yogurt-based butter substitute - oh my god - it was soooo good!  Truly a meal with fantastic flavor, low glycemic index, and lots of protein.








Monday, January 30, 2012

Making Bread

Bread-making is a great way to start a day.  I get up and immediately mix 1 1/3 cup of warm water with 2 teaspoons of "highly active" yeast (you can buy highly active or rapid rising - given the amount of stuff I add to my breads, I want all the rising I can get) and 4 or 5 tablespoons of brown sugar.  I then put the bowl in a warm oven at 80 to 100 degrees F and let the yeast wake up.  After 15 minutes or so there is a thick layer of bubbles indicating the yeast are alive, multiplying, and well.

Next I blend in everything else that goes into the bread, less one cup of flour.  At this point I also blend in all of the things I add to my bread.  The ingredients I add to my bread are the point behind these posts - the things I add to make bread that is even healthier then simple whole wheat bread.  I plan to discuss tomorrow the various ingredients that make my bread so special.

Here is the list of ingredients that make up a conventional whole wheat bread.  I often make two different breads at the same time, so have come up with a check list of ingredients to make sure I get everything in each batch.  If you would like a copy of my checklist send me an e-mail.

  • 1 1/3 cup warm water

  • 4 or 5 tablespoons brown sugar or honey

  • 2 teaspoons yeast

Mix and place in a warm oven (80 to 100 degrees) to let the yeast come to life - this is sometimes called "proofing" the yeast.  I let the yeast proof until there is a thick layer of foam on the mixture.

  • 1 teaspoon vinegar, lemon or lime juice

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour

  • 2 heaping tablespoons of gluten

Add these ingredients to the proofed yeast and mix.  This will result in a fairly thin and sticky bread dough - thin because it is still needs one more cup of flour.  I then cover the bowl and let the bread dough rest in a warm oven (80 to 100) for 15 to 30 minutes.

  • 1 cup of whole wheat flour

Next I blend in the last cup of whole wheat flour and check the consistency of the dough.  The dough at this point should not stick to the walls of the bowl as I mix the dough.  If too dry the dough will be dusty or clumpy.  Add a teaspoon of water and mix again.  If too wet, the dough will smear onto the mixing bowl as you mix.  Add a teaspoon or two of flour and mix again.  Continue until the bread dough doesn’t stick to the walls of the bowl but is not overly dry.  If there is an art to bread making, it is adding just enough flour that the dough quits sticking to the walls of the mixing bowl.

When the consistency is right I put the covered bowl of dough into a warm oven for 45 minutes to an hour - this is the first bread proof - I expect the dough to double in size.

I then take the dough out of the mixing bowl and kneed it on a flour-dusted mixing board.  The goal is to work the dough to drive out the bubbles of carbon dioxide and to work in a bit more flour so that you end up with dough that is not sticking to your hands or to the bread board.  I usually kneed by pressing the dough out into a flattened shape, then fold it and press it out again, adding flour as necessary to get the dough so that it does not stick to things.

When done I shape the dough into a small loaf and put it in a bread pan.  Typically I use non-stick bread pans, but I still lightly coat the inside of the pans with olive oil and then drizzle flour or cornmeal over the oiled insides of the pans to make sure the bread comes out easily.

The quantities I am using will produce two small loaves - so I split the dough in half and put it in the bread pans to rise again.  I also take a sharp knife and score the top of the bread to add some artistic flair to the loaves.

And, back into the warm oven for the final proof.  I cover the loaves with a linen cloth to keep the dough from drying out.

After roughly an hour the dough should have again doubled in size.  Take it out, heat the oven to 375, slip the loaves back into the oven - best if toward the center of the oven, both vertically and horizontally, and 35 minutes later you have bread!

After taking the bread out of the pans it is best to let it cool on a rack so it has a chance to release any excess moisture.  It is while the bread is still very hot, and just out of the pans that I get my first slice.  Gads, does it ever make it all worthwhile.

I let the bread cool until it is room temperature before putting it in a bag for safe keeping.

Tomorrow I will discuss what I add to my breads to make it even healthier than home made whole wheat bread!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Bread Ingredients

Bread is pretty much flour and water, with bits of other things thrown in to make it rise.

White bread is made with white bread flour.  That’s simple enough - and white bread flour is a highly refined flour, with just the right amount of protein - gluten - to make bread rise, and less of the fiber and nutrients (healthy stuff) found in whole wheat flour.

Gluten is what gives bread dough the consistency needed to trap the carbon dioxide generated by yeast.  These captured gas bubbles are what makes bread rise.

Think of gluten as the rubber in a balloon - without enough gluten bread will not rise.  Too much gluten and the bread rises a lot, but tends to fall when baked (the baloons burst because they are too full).

Leavened breads (breads that rise) typically have gluten in them.

Flour can be made from a variety of grains - but what we normally consider white flour comes from wheat.  As does whole wheat flour.  Different varieties of wheat have different gluten contents - which means that bread flours are made from varieties of wheat that have enough gluten - around 14 percent - needed to make bread rise.  Whole wheat flours typically have less gluten, making whole wheat bread means we need to add some gluten to increase the protein content so the bread will rise.

Hence my simple rule of thumb.  Each cup of whole wheat flour needs a tablespoon of added gluten.

I find that Bobs Red Mill and King Arthur whole wheat flours produce consistently great breads.  There are several others that just don’t rise as well - likely they need more added gluten.

So, we have flour, and gluten.  I mentioned yeast and carbon dioxide earlier in this post.  Yeast are small bugs (microbes) that consume sugar and generate carbon dioxide.  Yup, making bread is a microbiology experiment!

In fact, each time I make bread I first combine the warm water (in the 80 to 105 degree range), yeast, and sugar and set it aside in a warm oven to make sure the yeast are alive and well.  If they are the water will have a thick layer of bubbles in 10 or 15 minutes!  Interestingly, yeast are very happy with glucose or fructose, or even molasses, but honey (which is mostly glucose and fructose) doesn’t make then quite as active - so give honey 20 or 25 minutes for a good layer of foam.

So far we have flour, water, gluten, sugar and yeast.  That leaves salt, vinegar/lemon/lime juice, and oil.

Salt controls the growth of the yeast, strengthens the gluten structure of the dough and brings out flavors.

Vinegar, lemon or lime juice makes bread rise higher.  It tenderizes the gluten and extends the life of the bread while keeping it soft without changing the breads flavor.

And, lastly oil.  Oil give breads a longer shelf life by keeping them moist and makes the bread more tender and flavorful.  Too much oil inhibits rising.

See - this is not as complex as you may have thought.  Tomorrow we will talk about how I make bread.  In fact, tomorrow morning I will be making two different types of bread!

Thursday, January 26, 2012


When Kelly and I were deciding where we would live when we left Oklahoma we considered two areas - the mountains of Utah, and the Pacific northwest.  After narrowing down this far we took two trips, spending 10 days in both Utah and Washington/Oregon, looking at homes, cities, mountains, just generally trying to see where we would next call home.

Being hypoglycemic, I need to eat on a fairly regular basis.  Eating complex carbs gives me the energy I need to keep on keeping on.  So, when traveling I often buy a loaf of a very grainy bread and munch on it pretty much all day.  Every day.

When we were in Utah I had my bread with me while touring homes with a realtor.  This lead to a discussion on making bread ( which she did) and how much she loved her Bosch mixer.

Fast forward 3 days, and I am setting up a clock for a lovely lady in Salt Lake City - one of my dearest customers.  Get done and she invites us to join her and her husband for fruit and, well, you guessed it, home made bread.  Made with a Bosch mixer.

Turns out one of the biggest Bosch kitchen appliance stores in the US is in Salt Lake City.  While we did not have the time to visit the store, I did proceed to order one a couple of weeks later.

And so began the era of bread making.

And please, don’t get me wrong, there are many many nice mixers that do a great job of kneading bread, I just thought it was funny how specifically a Bosch mixer was so much a part of my getting started in bread making.  Oh, and Kelly and I often joke - we will have paid off the mixer and the grain grinder we got with the savings from making our own bread in just another 479 loaves!

The first step in a new venture for an engineer like me is to read up on the how to’s and the why’s behind it.  Three books later and I had the fundamentals all summarized in an Excel spreadsheet and was ready to get started.

What I learned as I went through my research phase was that bread making is really not as complex, or as much of a black art as I had once thought.  In fact, given that yeast is actually alive, and given that I had done a bit of development work in the bio-remediation field, I was right at home talking about feeding bugs and growing bugs (Don’t worry - baking bread kills the little buggers!).

Which brings me to making bread.  My way.  With lots and lots of whole grains and cut grains and other good stuff.

But, before we talk about the stuff to add to bread, we first need to understand what the basic ingredients are and a little about what each ingredient does.  This will be the subject of my posting tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Retirement How To's

Kelly and I discussed where we wanted to retire for many years before we finally believed we were ready for that step. We knew we did not want to retire in Oklahoma - the summers are just plain brutal if you don’t love heat - which we didn’t. After a lot of research we decided we would be happy in someplace in the pacific north west, or perhaps in Utah. So, off we went to visit, look at towns, homes, areas, try to get a better feel for these two areas.

The main reason for this post is to discuss the research phase we went through - looking at a rather wide variety of factors - average temperatures winter and summer, snow falls, rain days, sunny weather, demographics, health care availability, cultural opportunities, and, on a more focused basis, clock-related groups and the presence of a strong traditional music culture.

During this process we got to know a website that offers a wealth of information, and even has a newsletter to help you find information that might well help a great deal in deciding where you want to live. The website is - where you can sign up for their newsletter - which is free. I decided to focus this post on their site because their newsletter sent out today brought up some good points to consider when choosing where you want to retire. Check it out Top 10 Misconceptions about Retirment

I found this site a couple of years before we moved to Portland, and especially liked the way the newsletters would periodically remind me of some of the specifics of the decision we needed to make - give me a gentle prod to consider one or two more facets of what is both a rather important decision, and one can be rather complex and overpowering. And, you will likely be surprised at the amount of information you can mine from the sources they provide.

The end result - earlier, over dinner, Kelly looked up and said once again how happy she is that we chose to live here. That is huge.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Something New

I fear I have not been very diligent at posting recently - for which I offer the feeble excuse that my resolution for 2012 was to make a stab at becoming a certified personal trainer.

This decision, made 3 weeks ago, was in part the result of the talk I gave to a great group of older gentlemen back in early December. I discussed this with some of the folk who work out - they thought it would be something good to offer at the gym. So, off to talk to the gym manager - who thought it had merit. But, there was this little issue about employment - their policy is that people who teach at the gym have to be employees. And, it would be a lot better if I was a certified trainer... So, while my goal was not to get a job, it turns out that the exercise routines that I have been developing, and that get a lot of attention at the gym, well, they may end up getting me more involved at the gym.

Back on December 7 I talked about becoming old. As I said then - My theory is that we become old when we quit seeing tomorrow as a chance to improve, as a time to get stronger, as an opportunity to do something new. In short – we get old when tomorrow is no longer a chance to do something, to find satisfaction, and happiness. To grow, to become more than we are now. TO LIVE!

Don’t get me wrong, every time I embark on a new adventure there is doubt, there is trepidation, and all those other words that suggest it would be easier to just keep on keeping on. And, hey, I went through a two day course last weekend and then sat for the certification test yesterday afternoon. I hope I passed, but will only find out in a week or so. But, gads, did I learn a lot! Perhaps I started a little late, but I am amazed at how much I have learned in a pretty short time.

Which is what my concept of retirement is all about - living, learning, looking for more ways to find satisfaction.

So, wish me luck, hopefully in a week or so I will be able to report that I passed!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Joe, my clock bud

One of the really neat things about my clock website, and the articles I write on clocks and their restorations is I get to meet some really fantastic people. One is Joe, a clock guy out in mid-America. He’s a farm guy, grew up doing what people do on farms, fought for our country, has a son fighting for our country, the kind of guy you can be proud to call a friend.

He has a day job doing maintenance in a warehouse. And, he is a self-proclaimed curmudgeon. Recently, well, I will let him tell it in his own words: “I was given a fairly large electric motor to put in storage. I loaded it on to an electric pallet jack and drove to the other end of the building where I have a permanently parked trailer for storing stuff like that. I had to move a couple of big items that were in the way in the trailer. So I put the motor on the floor, out of the way.

While I was working, the assistant general manager walked up to the motor and looked at me. He pointed to it and asked “What’s this?”

I told him I was planning on putting in storage in the trailer and he suggested that I get some help with it. I promptly squatted down and with perfect lifting form curled it up almost to my chest , stood up and said, “I got this" and grinned.

I thought he was gonna have a heart attack. “Joe, be careful. That weighs….”

160 pounds I finished for him and turned and walked into the trailer and put it on the storage rack.

He had to go tell the maintenance manager who (knowing me quite well) just told him: “He does it because he can and he can because he does it.”

Rick, the maintenance manager admonished me later to be careful about scaring the kids. Really fun afternoon.”

Joe is 62, the assistant general manager is 40. Message here? Joe also told me a bit about his workout routine: “I got connected with a physical rehabilitation and fitness center because the franchise joints are full of people I find pretty much annoying. I’m something of a curmudgeon and I really don’t like being around kids in their really pricey workout clothes and all the supplements for body sculpting. I enjoy being able to continue doing things that I have always been able to do.

For me it’s about ability and overall staying power. I do two sets of 40 reps at 240 pounds on my lower back and 60 inclined sit-ups and a series of chest, lat, and shoulder workouts alternating between upper and lower body. I do some on the elliptical for cardio-vascular and free weight curls at 60 pounds. I use the elliptical for the CV stuff because my knees and ankles won’t put up with the pounding on a treadmill or open running (which I ain’t really interested in doing in the dead of winter anyhow!).”

62 years old, with an attitude. But, the take home message here is what Rick the maintenance manager said: “He does it because he can and he can because he does it.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Kelly's Second Career

When Kelly and I met 20 some odd years ago, she was starting to think about health, healthy eating, and learning more about all things healthy. At that point I still considered a chicken as two meals, with some veggies thrown in. Or, if rushed, a chicken would suffice. Actually, if there was no chicken, a rack of barbequed ribs would do just fine!

Over the years Kelly made a concerted effort to learn all she could about living a healthy life, and I began picking up bits of knowledge as she her knowledge and awareness grew. Probably 10 years ago she started thinking about her second career, and began to focus on the medical field - with a goal of finding a way to help people understand how they can live a healthier life.

Fast forward 8 years, and Kelly was ready to start doing something new. Her first step, after quitting her day job, was to go back to school to become a nurse. 14 months later, with a freshly minted BS degree she started her new career.

Let’s step back for a second and think about what I just described. When Kelly quit her day job she was a couple or three years shy of 50. And she was starting an entire new career - focused on helping others live a healthier life. Her way of looking at this is that her second career is her reward for the years she spent in the chemical industry. A chance to enhance her knowledge, continue to grow, and find a niche where she can feel she is really contributing to peoples health and well being.

All before she was 50.

Now, with over a year of nursing experience she is applying to Nurse Practitioner programs. Which means that 3 or 4 years from now she will be in a position to do what she really wants to do.

It goes without saying that I am proud of Kelly - she is learning so very much, continuing to challenge me in my own growth in the fitness and wellness fields, and she is bringing home a paycheck. And, just in case you hadn’t thought of this, in as much as she is working in a hospital, we get good medical benefits at a reasonable price.

There are so many disparate elements that have come together for Kelly and I - leading to what we consider a wonderful life. While many think of retirement as a time to sit back, we both believe that sitting back is not living life to the fullest. We often talk of the years ahead, my projections are based on selling my inventory of clocks - I figure 15 to 20 years - and then focusing more on upper-end restorations. Kelly will be a freshly minted Nurse Practitioner in 3 or 4 years, with a new and exciting career ahead of her.

For us, as I hope for you, life is doing things, finding satisfaction, and ultimately finding happiness.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


One of the things people talk to me about is what they will do when they retire. My advice typically focuses on finding something they really enjoy doing that can make a bit of money and provide satisfaction. Funny that, I was talking to a nephew recently, discussing what he planned to do when he grew up - he said pretty much what I just typed - find something that he really enjoys doing. The assumption was that then he would make good money.

Much like people struggling with what to do whey they retire, young folks face a similar conundrum. But, I honestly believe the answers are likely not as similar as I suggest above. When thinking about college today one of the parameters that I feel really deserves consideration is the jobs that will be available when graduation rolls around. And this, of course, depends on what a student decides to major in.

Today, as when I was growing up, high school students are counseled to find careers that they really enjoy. Whilst I think this would be the best of all worlds, what about the kids that find they don’t have a real focus, or those that want to focus on majors where jobs are scarce? Or don’t earn much?

In talking with my nephew I explained my take on jobs - that they are what we do to earn money. So we can do the things we really enjoy doing. See, there was a subtle little switch there - instead of going to college with a focus on what jobs would be the most fun, instead, I am suggesting going to college to get a job that makes enough money that students can then do what they want to have fun. I suspect that part of the reason there are so many young folk looking for jobs is that they did not evaluate the job opportunities that come with the degree they pursued. All too many young folk don’t have the skill sets necessary to get the good-paying jobs that are available.

Yes, there are some high school students who really enjoy maths and go into engineering. Likewise those who have a passion for the health care field. They will likely get good jobs. But what of those that don’t so much like math, or science, or studying? Perhaps the better focus for counselors would be pointing out where there are jobs, especially jobs that make good money. And then pointing out that good grades and a real focus on getting the skills needed to get into an appropriate degree program are how they will get those good jobs.

I suppose I was lucky in my career - I like engineering. I really do. But, hey, I like working on cars more, and, exercising, and working on clocks. These are all things I was able to get into because I had that job thing covered. To me, bottom line, people are paid to do jobs because they are just that: Jobs. Jobs provide the money we need to live, and, hopefully to do things we enjoy doing. In our off hours. And when we retire.

Sound like a bit of a rant - I suppose it is. I talk to young folk at the gym who are clearly bright, articulate, and motivated. And am a bit amazed at how many are going to college with a vague idea that they need to find something they really enjoy doing. When I ask them about placement statistics or starting salary for their chosen field I get blank stares. This is really not a good thing in the real world, where jobs are a little tight.

Retirement can be wonderful reality if we have prepared for it. That preparation starts in high-school, making that big decision on what career to pursue. The hope is that by the time today’s students retire they will have made the big ticket purchases, paid off the house, own their car(s), and generally not need as much to live comfortably after they retire..

At that point they get to think about what they might really enjoy doing. I’ve talked at length about my passion for old clocks, and how I prepared for retirement. Tomorrow I will post on how my wife is transitioning into her second career - in the health-care field.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


In yesterday’s post I talked about the concept of Wabi Sabi, and its origins in the Japanese tea ceremony. When samurai entered a teahouse they removed their swords, leaving behind their conflicts and pretensions with their weapons. When shed of this baggage they were more receptive to the peace and serenity of the tea ceremony, more open to the beauty of the naturally imperfect world.

The parallels for finding happiness in our relationship are invaluable and inviolate. It is so easy to carry the stresses from our day into our relationships, to continue the charade we put on for the world to emphasize how important we are. I know this - because I am way too good at it.

Seeking guidance from the concept of wabi-sabi - we must deliberately accept our partners in relationships, understanding and celebrating where they are, imperfect, unfinished, and mortal.

Appreciation for imperfections in others, and even in ourselves, is essential to a wabi sabi frame of mind. As Leonard Cohen poetically phrased it “There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.”

Being fascinated with another person, shedding our innate desire to be the center of attention, but focusing instead on our partners thoughts, sensations, things that happened to them that day, things that went right, and things that didn’t - letting them know they are fascinating - and that we accept them as they are, not viewing them as a project to be fixed... leaves us with time and emotional energy for truly enjoying the relationship and your partner.

Accepting our own and our partners shortcomings - finding joy in our relationships. Perhaps this is a good news years resolution - celebrating the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete in our friends and loved ones.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese term that embodies finding, and appreciating beauty in a naturally imperfect world. This concept has a number of meanings in my world - one that I discuss on my clock website has to do with the feel of tools in my hand. So much of the equipment I use in my clock hobby is older than I am. Tools that have been held and used for many years develop a feel that makes them comfortable in the hand. Actually, I find that tools from years ago often were designed to fit the hand, while modern tools seem more focused on function. To the point that I bought a very nice pair of Swiss bent-nose needle-nose pliers, figuring they would be better than the pair I had been using which had to be 50 years old. And, while the new pliers have nice sharp edges for picking up small objects, they still live in the drawer because I find the old ones more comfortable to use.

Wabi Sabi is an ancient aesthetic philosophy rooted in Zen Buddhism, and particularly in the tea ceremony. Masters prized hand-made bowls that were handmade, irregularly shaped, with uneven glazes, cracks, but still a beauty in their deliberate imperfections.

Wabi can be translated as “Simplicity”, whether elegant or rustic. Sabi refers to the beauty of age and wear.

Another way of thinking of Wabi-Sabi is that it is the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, the antithesis of our classical Western notion of Beauty as something perfect, enduring, and monumental.

I find my appreciation of wabi-sabi grows as I age. One example is the feeling I get every time I crawl into my 1970 Jag XKE. And, yes, crawling is one way to describe getting over the wide sill and settling into the contoured seat. This is a car that looks quite good from 30 feet, but begins to look a little shabby at 5 feet. The feelings it engenders are akin to the feelings I get when I put on my current pair of well-worn leather work gloves - everything feels like it belongs where it is, my hand knows where to find each switch, knows the feel of the gas pedal, and just how far to let the clutch out for it to begin to engage. On a recent drive through some wonderfully twisty mountain roads (I always thought C.W. McCall’s description of such roads was most apt: “It was hairpin county and switchback city. One of 'em looked like a can full'a worms; another one looked like malaria germs.”) I rediscovered how much I love the response of that car - and its feel. Perhaps in another 30 years I will develop the same appreciation for my BMW Z3 - but somehow I doubt it will be quite the same - BMW’s really are just too perfect - while an old Jag pretty much embodies the concept of wabi-sabi.

Wabi-sabi - crows feet around your grandmothers eyes, the frayed legs of a favorite pair of jeans, the scars on an old pair of boots. When I see photo’s of models with their overly made up faces, showing only the perfection of a peach, I kind of feel sad - because I truly believe there is beauty below the plastered on layers of color and texture. You won’t find wabi-sabi in Botox, glass-and-steel skyscrapers, smart phones or the relentless drive for self improvement. But you will find it in the simplicity that reveals itself through the daily work of living.

For me, another aspect of my appreciation of wabi-sabi are the tools I inherited from my dad. Don’t have much from him, a lot was lost in a fire. But, there’s the 30's vintage floor jack that I found buried in the mud outside his shop. It had a broken cylinder, but I found a magical machinist that could braze the cast iron and re-bore the cylinder, and I was then able to rebuild it. I also have two screw drivers, a pair of needle nose pliers and a pair of wire cutters that were his. My hand gravitates to them, even though I have nicer, more expensive, better tools, these are the ones my hand wants to use.

Where is all this going? Good question. I suppose one direction is the satisfaction I get when I see myself in a mirror at the gym. Not perfect, ok, not even close. Will never have 6-pack abs, but the definition I have managed to develop please me more than any body-builders physique. Or perhaps it is the letting go of the need for everything to be perfect - to accept that which we can not change.

Accepting the world as imperfect, unfinished, and transient, and then going deeper and celebrating that reality: This is something like freedom. Life - scratches, scars, laugh lines - is itself perfectly imperfect, and I can find and embrace the beauty in that.

In writing this post I drew inspiration and phrases from a lovely article in “Whole Living”. And, if interested, the lyrics to C.W. McCalls song “Wolf Creek Pass” can be found here: Wolf Creek Pass